Motorcycles come in a fairly wide range of shapes and sizes. In some cases, a vehicle that you might regard as a motorcycle might nevertheless be too small to be considered street legal. Even if you can take it on the street, you should still be aware of the relevant licensing requirements.

Laws regarding the proper size of a motorcycle can vary from one state to another. For example, in Texas, the size of a vehicle can influence whether it’s considered a motorcycle or a moped. Because the laws regarding mopeds and motorcycles are different, it’s important to be familiar with these differences.

Motorcycles vs. Mopeds in Texas

A vehicle qualifies as a moped or scooter in Texas if:

  • It cannot be driven faster than 30 miles-per-hour
  • Has an engine incapable of generating more than five horsepower
  • Has a piston displacement that does not exceed 50 CCs and a power drive system that does not require shifting of gears (if the moped has an internal combustion engine)

To legally ride a moped in Texas, you must:

  • Be at least 15 years of age
  • Register your vehicle the same way you would register a motorcycle
  • Have a Class M motorcycle license with a P36 restriction

You will also need to purchase insurance for your moped. Your vehicle will need to pass annual inspections for safety and emissions, and you will need to always wear your helmet when riding.

What Qualifies as a Motorcycle in Texas?

The above information highlights some of the distinctions between motorcycles and similar types of vehicles in Texas. Other vehicles that don’t technically qualify as motorcycles include autocycles, electric bicycles, and motor-assisted scooters.

A vehicle with an engine that exceeds 50 ccs is considered a motorcycle in Texas. Understanding this definition can help you understand the licensing requirements for your vehicle.

To legally ride a motorcycle in Texas, you must: 

  • Complete a motorcycle safety class approved by the Department of Motor Safety
  • Complete a road test and a written test (although this may be waived if you are over the age of 18 and have completed a safety course)
  • Insure and register your vehicle
  • Wear a helmet if you are under the age of 21 
  • If you are over the age of 21, you can choose not to wear a helmet if you have a proper health insurance plan

That last point is important to consider. Although you may legally be able to ride a motorcycle in Texas without a helmet, that doesn’t mean you should. You can significantly minimize your chances of sustaining a brain injury in a motorcycle accident if you protect yourself with a helmet and other basic gear.

A small motorcycle may be worth considering if you want to ease yourself into riding a motorcycle. 

Vehicles to consider include:

  • Kawasaki Z125 Pro (125 cc engine)
  • Honda Grom (125 cc engine)
  • Kawasaki Versys-X 300 (296 cc engine)
  • CSC RZ3 (250 cc engine)
  • KTM 390 Duke (373 cc engine)
  • Suzuki VanVan 200 (199 cc engine)

None of this is meant to be an endorsement of these vehicles. You need to consider a range of factors when determining which motorcycle is right for you. A small motorcycle with a low-cc engine may help you get used to riding if you lack experience. However, you must also keep in mind that a motorcycle does not offer the same protection as a car or similar vehicle.

You are more susceptible to injury on a motorcycle than you are when driving or riding in another type of motor; you don’t have a steel frame protecting you. 

That said, if you want to ride a motorcycle in Texas, but you’re drawn towards smaller bikes, you should be aware of the laws regarding how small a vehicle can be to qualify as a street legal motorcycle in our state. Hopefully, this brief guide has clarified the topic for you.